New Report Finds Energy Efficiency is America’s Cheapest Energy Resource – Energy Efficiency Costs Utilities 2 to 3 Times Less Than Traditional Power Sources; Average of 2.8 Cents per Kilowatt Hour

March 25, 2014-Press Release from the American Council on an Energy Efficient EconomyEditor’s note: As this report seas being published, Indiana Governor, Mike Pence decided to allow Senate Bill 340 to become law, essentially eliminating the only policy Indiana has requiring energy efficiency goals and mandates. Now, Indiana is a state without any sort of efficiency mandate.Indiana Flag scream

According to a new report released today by ACEEE, energy efficiency is the cheapest method of providing Americans with electricity. Energy efficiency programs aimed at reducing energy waste cost utilities only about three cents per kilowatt hour, while generating the same amount of electricity from sources such as fossil fuels can cost two to three times more.

“The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t have to produce in the first place,” said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. “Our new report shows that when utilities are examining options on how to provide their customers with cheap, clean electricity, energy efficiency is generally the best choice.”

“Why build more expensive power plants when efficiency gives you more bang for your buck?” said Maggie Molina, Utilities, State and Local Program Director and author of the report, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar: A National Review of the Cost of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs. “Investing in energy efficiency helps utilities and ratepayers avoid the expense of building new power plants and the harmful pollution that plants emit.”

The report looks at the cost of running efficiency programs in 20 states from 2009 to 2012 and finds an average cost of 2.8 cents per kWh—about one-half to one-third the cost of alternative new electricity resource options, as illustrated by the following graph from the report:

c-ee-cost-graphLevelized costs of electricity resource options. Source: Energy efficiency data represent the results of this analysis for utility program costs (range of four-year averages for 2009-2012); supply costs are from Lazard 2013.

The report analyzes energy efficiency costs from states across the country, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Other Key Findings Include:

  • At an average of 35 cents per therm, natural gas utility energy efficiency programs are also highly cost-effective (in 2013, the national average natural gas commodity price was 49 cents per therm).
  • Both electricity and natural gas efficiency programs have consistently remained low-cost resources over the past decade, which shows the reliability of efficiency as a long-term resource.
  • Each dollar invested in electric energy efficiency measures yields $1.24 to $4.00 in total benefits for all customers, which include avoided energy and capacity costs, lower energy costs during peak demand periods like heat waves, avoided costs from building new power lines, and reduced pollution.
  • Incorporating higher levels of energy efficiency in long-term planning can protect utilities and their customers against volatile and rising costs of traditional energy resources.

To read the report, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar: A National Review of the Cost of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs, visit: http://aceee.org/research-report/u1402

Permission is granted for media outlets to use the graph above. To download visit:http://aceee.org/files/image/store/ee-cost-graph.jpg

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors.

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7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution

March 25, 2014-New Release from the World Health Organization

In new estimates released today, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.gas mask

New estimates

In particular, the new data reveal a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer. This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

The new estimates are not only based on more knowledge about the diseases caused by air pollution, but also upon better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through the use of improved measurements and technology. This has enabled scientists to make a more detailed analysis of health risks from a wider demographic spread that now includes rural as well as urban areas.

Regionally, low- and middle-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions had the largest air pollution-related burden in 2012, with a total of 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution.

“Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents noncommunicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children’s Health. “Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.” (continue reading)

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Who’s behind the effort to kill Indiana’s efficiency law?

March 17, 2014- By Kari Lydersen in Midwest Energy News

A bill before Indiana Governor Mike Pence could end a state efficiency program that has led to significant energy savings in the past two years.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Clean energy and environmental groups, along with some major companies, are pleading with Pence to veto the bill, saying it would mean higher energy bills and jobs lost as demand drops for products from light bulbs to efficient appliances.

Advocates say the state’s efficiency program, Energizing Indiana, is a “win-win-win situation” for companies, consumers and the environment. The program was created by a December 2009 order from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and was implemented in 2012.

The bill passed by lawmakers this year actually started as a much narrower provision that would have allowed large industrial users to opt out of the energy efficiency program. Large manufacturers like steel mills have paid millions of dollars to support the efficiency program, while typical households are paying an extra $2 or $3 a month.

The program includes free energy audits, weatherization for low-income households, subsidies for residential lighting products, heating and cooling retrofits at schools, education about energy efficiency, and rebates for commercial and industrial retrofits. Six utilities are covered by the program, which resulted in a savings of more than 416 million kWh in 2012.

The original bill was introduced in January by state Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) and passed in early February. Then in the House, Rep. Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo) introduced a floor amendment that greatly altered the bill so that it would terminate the entire efficiency program in December. The amended bill says the utility regulatory commission cannot “extend, renew, or require the establishment of an energy efficiency program” under the 2009 order. It says utilities can continue to recover costs related to their compliance with the order.

The amended bill passed the House on Feb. 26 and then the Senate on March 10, with a vote of 37-8. At the time this story was published it had not yet reached Pence’s desk. Once the governor has the bill, he has seven calendar days to sign or veto it. (See when SB 340 lands on the Pence’s desk here.) If the governor takes no action, the bill becomes law.

That “would be devastating, it would kill efficiency in our state as we know it,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Council.

A good investment?

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Is Winter Waning?

P1050127Is winter about over? We sure hope so and one thing that always gives us that hope is the emergence of crocus in the Valley Watch garden. Two bloomed today, one yellow and one white.

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Evansville air reaches “Unhealthy” level but no alerts issued

February 13, 12014- by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor. 

This picture was shot today (2/13/14) at approximately 10 AM. I was shot from the river bank looking almost due east toward downtown Evansville. It shows little detail of the downtown since Evansville has found itself in an air pollution quagmire for several days but with levels of fine particles reaching "unhealthy" levels today. Photo © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV.

This picture was shot today (2/13/14) at approximately 10 AM. I was shot from the river bank looking almost due east toward downtown Evansville. It shows little detail of the downtown since Evansville has found itself in an air pollution quagmire for several days but with levels of fine particles reaching “unhealthy” levels today. Photo © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV.

For several days now, Evansville air quality has suffered significantly from high levels of fine particles. Today, they reached levels considered “unhealthy” exceeding the current 24 hour federal standard of 35µg/m3 for several hours at the time this was written. See screen shot of the data from the near real time website (http://idem.tx.sutron.com/cgi-bin/daily_summary.pl) operated by IDEM below.Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 11.26.59 AM

I have been following this development for several days, now. It seems the first time the level exceeded the 24 hour standard for a single hour was at midnight on Sunday, February 9. From a  personal standpoint, that date was significant to me because that was the day that my wife came down with a respiratory problem which was diagnosed yesterday as pneumonia. Of course, no one can say with certainty that a single diagnosis was directly caused by a single air pollution event.

However, the problem here is that here we are in the fifth day of significant pollution problems and as been the case in the past, neither IDEM or the local air pollution agency has issued any sort of alert. Now, as I write this the data clearly shows unhealthy levels but still no alert has been issued at this hour (just after 11 AM).

While the closure of several coal plants in the region is currently in the works, it is clear we have a long way to go before the air in Evansville can be considered safe. Valley Watch encourages people who have noticed breathing or respiratory irritation over the last few days to contact their elected and bureaucratic officials at EVERY level to complain that you are tired of being treated as second class citizens and forced to breathe foul, unhealthy air.

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Yes, it is an ad for GoPro but what a video!

February, 5, 2014- by GoPro and Felix Baumgartner. Editors Note: It is not our common practice to commercialize what we place on valleywatch.net but this video is a must see for people who appreciate the Earth and its physical properties like gravity.

Published on Jan 31, 2014
October 14, 2012, Felix Baumgartner ascended more than 24 miles above Earth’s surface to the edge of space in a stratospheric balloon. Millions across the globe watched as he opened the door of the capsule, stepped off the platform, and broke the speed of sound while free falling safely back to Earth. Felix set three world records that day—and inspired us all to reach beyond the limits of our own realities, and reimagine our potential to achieve the incredible.

GoPro was honored to be a part of this epic achievement, with seven HERO2 cameras documenting every moment. From the airless freeze of outer space, to the record-breaking free fall and momentous return to ground—see it all through Felix’s eyes as captured by GoPro, and experience this incredible mission like never before. No one gets you closer than this.

Shot 100% on the HD HERO2® camera from http://GoPro.com

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Legal Deadline Set for EPA’s Coal Ash Rule

January 29, 2014-by Sonal Patel in Power Magazine

Coal ash and sludge lagoons, like those in the foreground of this picture at Duke Energy's Gibson Station near Princeton, IN have gone largely unregulated until now when EPA, under a legal settlement is required to issue rules for regulation of the hazardous material by December 19 of this year. File Photo © BlairPhotoEVV

Coal ash and sludge lagoons, like those in the foreground of this picture at Duke Energy’s Gibson Station near Princeton, IN have gone largely unregulated until now when EPA, under a legal settlement is required to issue rules for regulation of the hazardous material by December 19 of this year. File Photo © BlairPhotoEVV

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must issue a proposed revision of its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle D rules regulating coal combustion residuals no later than Dec. 19, 2014, under a consent decree reached between the agency and environmental groups that was filed in federal court today.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 30, 2013, granted summary judgement to at least 11 environmental groups and on Oct. 29 required the EPA to submit a schedule for final agency action on the RCRA coal ash rule by Jan. 29, 2014. The environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, had sued the EPA in April 2012 to address what they said are the “serious and widespread risks that unsafe disposal of coal combustion waste or ‘coal ash’ poses to human health and environment.” The EPA’s failure to act on “well-documented risks associated with irresponsible disposal of coal ash” violates RCRA, the groups argued.

The EPA in June 2010 published alternative proposed coal ash rules under RCRA in large part due to the December 2008 failure of a coal ash impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) Kingston coal-fired power plant. That disaster released 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash that inundated several homes and contaminated the Emory River in Tennessee. Continue reading page 2 below…

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Big Rivers to idle two tri-state coal plants. Regional air will continue recent improvements.

January 24, 2014-by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

Reuters reported today that Big Rivers will soon “idle”  860 MegaWatts of coal fired electric capacity in western Kentucky. That move expected to be completed by the end of June.

Big Rivers Electric Corporation's, Kenneth C. Coleman plant near Hawesville, Kentucky is note slated to be "idled" due to there deal with Century  Aluminum, adjacent to the plant, coming to an end. © BlairPhotoEVV

Big Rivers Electric Corporation’s, Kenneth C. Coleman plant near Hawesville, Kentucky is note slated to be “idled” due to their sweetheart deal with Century Aluminum, adjacent to the plant, coming to an end. © BlairPhotoEVV.

According the Reuters report, “Marty Littrel, a spokesman for Big Rivers, said the company was looking to idle the plants, not retire them. ”This is a temporary thing. We have some of the lowest-cost power in the country and have made proposals to sell electricity to several other companies,” Littrel said, noting the plants could sell power anywhere in the Eastern Interconnection, which covers much of the eastern two-thirds of North America.

Either way, this should be good news for tri-state air quality since together these plants emit a total of: NOX-6,061 tons; SO2-10,640 tons; toxic air pollution-5,340,920 pounds according to EPA’s eGRID database for 2009 and the Toxic Release Inventory for 2010.

Big Rivers' DB Wilson plant in Ohio County, KY is slated to be "idled" by the end of February according to a Reuters News Service story posted 1/24/14.

Big Rivers’ DB Wilson plant in Ohio County, KY is slated to be “idled” by the end of February according to a Reuters News Service story posted 1/24/14. © BlairPhotoEVV.

Those emissions reductions, coupled with the reductions that will come from the shuttering of three coal units at TVA’s Paradise plant, announced last fall should bode well for the health of people across the area of western Kentucky and southwest Indiana.

Valley Watch has fought for years to get these plants either cleaned up or shut down but we are surprised to see the Wilson plant get the ax since it is the newest, most efficient plant in the Big Rivers system.

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Are Agriculture Exports Killing Us?

January 22, 2014-by Tom Phillpot in Mother Jones Magazine. Editor’s note: Valley Watch has challenged the issued Title V permit given to Ohio Valley Resources, a huge producer of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, proposed for Rockport. Our main motivation for doing so is that large ammonium nitrate plants like this emit vast amounts of ammonia to the air, averaging in those we have found, more than 8 million pounds each year. Sadly, we lack the resources to challenge a similar plant proposed for the west side of Mt. Vernon to operated by a Pakistani company, implicated in supplying ammonium nitrate for “improvised explosive devices” used against American troops in Afghanistan.

Chicken farms like this one of many in SW Indiana and Western Kentucky contribute greatly to the overall levels of ammonia in regional air. Photo © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV

Chicken farms like this one of many in SW Indiana and Western Kentucky contribute greatly to the overall levels of ammonia in regional air. Ammonia is formed as chicken, hog and human feces degrades either in waste lagoons like the one above or in a kitty litter box. Photo © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV

Late last year, US Department of Agriculture chief Tom Vilsack boasted that US agriculture exports had hit an all-time high in fiscal 2013, and hailed “historic work by the Obama Administration to break down barriers to US products and achieve new agreements to expand exports.” Underlying Vilsack’s glee is the idea that growing huge amounts of food here and selling a big chunk of it overseas bolsters the US economy and stabilizes rural America.

Agricultural exports cause $36 billion in annual healthcare costs, along with about 5,100 premature deaths.

That kind of thinking has driven agriculture policy at least since the days when Richard Nixon’s ag secretary Earl Butz exhorted farmers to scale up operations and plant “fencerow to fencerow” in order to supply foreign markets.

But a new paper (PDF) from Harvard suggests massive ag exports might not be the economic boon imagined by USDA secretaries. The researchers looked at a single farm pollutant, ammonia (NH3), which makes its way into the air from fertilizer applied to farm fields and from the manure that accumulates on livestock farms. Once it enters the atmosphere, as Erik Stokstad explained in an excellent (pay-walled) news item in Science, it “reacts with other air pollutants to create tiny particles that can lodge deep in the lungs, causing asthma attacks, bronchitis, and heart attacks.”

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Valley Watch joins Sierra Club in challenge of Indiana Gasification permit extension

January 14, 2014- by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

Valley Watch has joined with the Sierra Club in filing a challenge of the recently extended permit for the proposed Indiana Gasification facility in Rockport. It Doesn't Even Matter

Valley Watch feels strongly that IDEM did not due it proper diligence in extending the permit to allow an additional six months for construction to begin on the plant that was originally scheduled to be online in 2011. IDEM received a “request” for an extension on December 26, 2013 and grated the extension before the end of the same day. Under the rules of Title V of the Clean Air Act, once a permit is issued, the applicant is required to begin construction within eighteen months. that means the Indiana Gasification permit expired in early December 2013. The reason for the eighteen month  period is to  force applicants to use the most current technology for pollution control instead of relying solely on what might be antiquated technology for emissions control.

The plant, which is designed to convert coal into synthetic natural gas for home heating and industrial uses was said to cost $2.8 billion in 2008 when it first gained support in the Indiana legislature and that figure has not been updated even in light of the huge cost overruns experienced by Duke Energy in their new plant at Edwardsport which has yet to operate at anywhere near Duke’s promised capacity levels. Duke’s plant has just two gasifiers while the Rockport proposal calls for four gasifiers. Duke’s plant was originally said to cost $1.2 billion but now has a construction cost over $3.3 billion.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels had no problem betraying his conservative bonifides when it came to pushing to force his constituents to ensure that his good friend, Mark Lubbers got rich from the Indiana Gasification proposal at Rockport. Photo © 2007 John Blair.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels had no problem betraying his conservative bonifides when it came to pushing to force his constituents to ensure that his good friend, Mark Lubbers got rich from the Indiana Gasification proposal at Rockport. Photo © 2007 BlairPhotoEVV.

Duke’s plant lacks Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) while the Indiana Gasification proposal claims too use that to keep CO2 from being emitted to the atmosphere. However, the US Department of Energy  (DOE) says that CCS will add approximately 50% to the capital cost of the construction as well as use 25-40% of the energy the plant will produce, reducing the overall efficiency of the technology significantly.

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Interesting! The connection between tobacco deniers and climate change deniers is evident

December 30, 2013-by Peter Sinclair at Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Congressman “Smokey Joe” Barton is known for apologizing to BP after the 2010 Oil spill, and harassing climate scientists.
Turns out he’s also been a key connection between the tobacco industry and the climate denial industry. Archival footage from ABC News on the tobacco wars of the 90s turns up sequences of Smoky Joe in action on behalf of Big Cancer.

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Exponential Growth as it applies to finite systems

December 25, 2013-Video by David Suzuki

This video explains why population and economic growth is a false proposition.

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International Panel on Climate Change produces 10 minute video about its recent report

December 4, 2013-by the International Panel on Climate Change

The IPCC has produced a video on its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The first part on the Working Group I contribution to AR5 is now available. The other parts will be released with the successive approvals of the other two Working Group contributions and the Synthesis Report in the course of 2014.

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TVA’s Paradise coal plant, one of the dirtiest in the world to shutter two units-Great health news for the Tri-State

November 14, 2013-by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

Paradise 5-2-12


Tennessee Valley Authority’s Paradise power plant (near Central City, KY) spews huge levels of pollution every day it operates. This photo was taken on May 2, 2012. Studies show that pollution is harmful to health and indeed, causes cancer and premature death for some people exposed down wind. Today, TVA’s Board of Directors chose to shut down Units 1 and 2 of the polluting plant which should result in significant air quality improvements throughout the TriState. © BlairPhotoEVV

Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors today, gave an early Thanksgiving and Christmas gift to Tri-State citizens’ health by announcing they would shut down two of the three units at the plant and build a plant run on natural gas instead of coal to replace the closed units.

Together, the plants, which are to close when the construction of the gas plant(s) are completed generate 1,408 megawatts of electricity at capacity. Unit 3,  which is larger, has a current rated capacity of 1,150 megawatts and will continue to run on coal.

Interestingly, all three plants recently installed scrubbers which became operational in 2012 and even with that large investment TVA decided to quit chasing bad money with good money since they could not meet the new USEPA standards for toxic emissions like mercury and hydrogen sulfide gas. Those emissions in 2009, the last available at publishing time were 10,010,317 pounds.

In it’s “fact sheet” coupled with the closure announcement, TVA said, “In the end, building a gas plant was the best long-term decision when all the benefits and risks were weighed and presented the best option for cleaner generation, while providing more flexibility to quickly meet peak loads during the day and come offline quickly at night when loads drop significantly.”

TVA says they will invest well over $1 billion in the new gas units. The units it will replace were placed into service in 1963 making them fifty years old.

Just this week, a study by the Environmental Integrity Project revealed that the aquifers beneath the plant are contaminated with Arsenic, Boron, Cobalt, Manganese, Molybdenum and Sulfate at levels significantly above health based guidelines.

Valley Watch has kept a close eye on the Paradise plant and offered comments and testimony regarding their operation for the entire thirty-two years Valley Watch has been in existence. Valley Watch’s purpose is “to protect the Public Health and Environment of the lower Ohio River Valley.”

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Dazzling Time-Lapse Reveals America’s Great Spaces

November 13, 2013- Video by photographer Shane Black

October 23, 2013—After quitting a comfortable day job, photographer Shane Black spent two months on the road shooting time-lapses of some of America’s most beautiful spots. His “Adventure Is Calling” video is the mesmerizing result, made from about 10,000 of the photos he took.

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